Following the most recent shootings and police brutality in America, I asked a grade 11 student to write a letter to the American people. What they produced shocked me.
It would appear that your history and circumstance has played a pivotal role in your birth as a nation. Paradoxically, two of these circumstances are now responsible in what might undermine the states from ever becoming united. Guns and racism are two pathological illnesses your nation was born with, the two scary issues that ‘the land of the brave’ seem too afraid to deal with.
It is somewhat ironic that as your first black president’s administration is in the autumn of its office, America appears more racially divided than at any other time in recent history. Many of us thought that the election of Barrack Obama would mean that you had finally reached Martin Luther King’s ‘promised land’. In recent years it has become obvious that this was a false dawn, today you are as far from that ‘promised land’ as you have perhaps ever been.
Why is it that racism is only talked about following the police shooting an unarmed black youth, or police brutality against black, bikini clad teenage girls, or when a white supremacist executes 9 black people in a church? Surely none of those actions have a place in ‘the land of the free’. And that’s part of the problem, it’s all this ‘land of the free, and home of the brave,’ the huge effort you go to to convince yourselves that you have created a Utopia. What kind of sick minded people pledge their allegiance to a flag? It’s nothing more than a symbolic yoke used to control the nation’s citizens, an arbitrarily colored piece of cloth, I would rather pledge allegiance to my toilet paper, after all it has a far more functional purpose and I know which one I couldn’t live without. The incessant patriotic pageantry has misled you into thinking that somehow you are the moral compass setting a course for the rest of the world. Sadly the rest of the world can see right through it and sees you for the wayward child you are. It’s time that you wake up and acknowledge that this country that you sing about, pledge allegiance to, doesn’t, and indeed has never existed. As George Carlin once said ‘it’s called the American Dream because you’ve got to be asleep to believe it’. You have to ask yourself why any country requires so many institutionalized methods of reinforcing patriotism, if the country is so great people will acknowledge it as being so without the need for all this mindless, systematic pageantry.
Put away the bunting for a while and turn off the ball game, have the courage to face up to your responsibilities. Start tackling the issues that as a nation you have ignored for far too long. Look yourself in the mirror and recognize that America’s most dangerous enemy isn’t Islamic extremism, ebola or even Russians, but yourselves. It’s always easy to put the blame onto someone else’s shoulders, but your society is the problem, it’s your mess and only you can clean it up.
People around the world are at a loss to explain your disparate responses to when foreigners kill Americans compared to when Americans kill each other. America has justified the torture and rendition of foreigners for the reason of protecting Americans whilst being only too happy to provide its citizens with the weapons to openly slaughter one another on a daily basis. One can only wonder, how as a country you would have reacted had the gunman been a follower of ISIS. But, because he is a white supremacist your response is markedly more restrained, more measured, you can’t find anyone to invade on this one. The fact is America far prefers its citizens to kill one another than to allow foreigners to do it and your constitution’s second amendment facilitates this. You have to ask yourselves some tough questions, you have to question some of the historical factors that gave birth to your nation, and to be strong enough to acknowledge some of them just might have been wrong. One thing you must be certain of though, now is not the time for ticker tape parades, apple pie, bunting and songs.
A Korean student
I would be really interested in following this kid’s career!!! This person is going to do big things someday !!!!! I WISH American kids were this astute and articulate!!!!!
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Thank you so much for your kind words of encouragement. I will pass them on to my student, they will be so thrilled. Many thanks.
This is an American kid, you idiot. If this kid were actually Korean, they would realize that Korea is a far more racist and nationalistic country than America has ever been.
My student agrees that Korea is not without its racial problems, but that should not act as excuse for America not to solve their issues with racism. Whilst Korea suffers with racism, the student is unsure how you can say it is worse, perhaps you are able to inform us of the last racist mass murder in Korea?
This is not a forum for being bombastic, this is a very serious time America is going through and I’m sure everyone wishes the country and its people the very best.
And please do not call people who have taken the time to comment, an ‘idiot’.
James D. Roberts
IDGAF what “a Korean student” thinks about my Constitutional rights.
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That is of course entirely your opinion which you are entitled to. I’m just disappointed that as we live in a world of instantaneous global communication, some people feel so threatened by the opinions of people from a foreign country. If you have the time, what would your thoughts have been if it had been written by an American student?
Great point, Jim!
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this is an American student, you idiot. The student is claiming ethnicity, and at the same time shaming white americans for being ethnocentric.
I can state categorically that your assertion that the student is American is incorrect.
Any & every country needs ways of reinforcing patriotism. Otherwise the people of the country have no incentive to build communities and build for the future, they just end up hating themselves and their neighbors.
Will you scold Koreans for only buying Korean cars?
Probably not because that doesn’t fit the narrative of “America bad, white bad, racism.”
What is the point of your article? That nationalism is bad because of guns and racism?
There is no clear thesis in this piece. You are regurgitation popular talking points among the left. You come to this country, and you see what it takes to get an A on your paper from your leftist professor.
You’re going to decry people for nationalism, ethnocentrism, for liking themselves.
What is our response to Dylan Roof? He is currently in custody, he’s probably going to get the death penalty.
Am I mad about this, yes, but not as mad as I would be if it were an ISIS fighter, or if it were a black gunman shooting up a group of white people.
If someone outside your family kills your brother, are you mad? If your brother kills your brother are you mad? which are you more angry about? You’ve tapped into an illogical quirk of human nature, bravo. But don’t pretend that you don’t suffer from the same defect
What are you more angry about, the North’s occupation of the South, or Japans occupation of Korea during the war?
Or are you angry at America for colonizing Korean, and helping you set up a modern economic system so you can have oil refineries and steel foundries, so that you can make those great Korean cars that you are all so proud and nationalistic of.
There is no common sense anymore. The only common “sense” is “America bad, white bad, guns bad.” This kid was close to the edge and shouldn’t have been pushed, exactly like the people who shot up Charlie hebdo.
Racial problems only seem to occur in places with multiple large groups of different races, like central America, the Balkans, the middle east, or American cities. They never seem to happen in places like Korea, where 96% of people are ethnic Koreans. Come to think of it there isn’t very much crime in Korea, everyone is asian. Similar to how there isn’t very much crime in Iowa, everyone is white.
It’s great that you come to this country, parrot your liberal professer, and figure out what it takes to get an A on your writing assignment. But I have some advice for you. Our second amendment rights are set in stone, They aren’t going anywhere. America is a white country. It’s our country, we aren’t going anywhere. We’re giving this kid the death penalty, what the hell else do you want us to do? My advice for you is to not antagonize the wrong people. You’re a guest in our country, please don’t antagonize us. I realize that you are saying the right thing to get an A from your liberal professor, but your not gong to make many friends in the real world with your hate speech.
I don’t think that I’m a moral compass for the rest of the world, I have no Idea where you got that idea from. I don’t care about the rest of the world one bit. I wish my government would stop invading other countries, or messing in foreign affairs. I do really admire my country’s democratic constitution, and it’s bill of rights granting citizens freedom of speech and freedom of association. Your parents must really admire it as well, or why the hell did they bring you here? How is my society the problem. Are you referring to the jew media you are constantly exposed to? I don’t enjoy that poisonous garbage, and it is easy to avoid, just turn of the tv and turn off the computer.
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Thank you for such an extensive reply. The student you are referring to doesn’t actually live in America, but you had no way of knowing this, she is however concerned by the tone of your letter. Please do not let this take our focus away from the despicable events that happened in Charleston, they are what is important and what we should be reflecting upon.
My student regretfully informs you that the piece of work did not get an ‘A’, but then again that isn’t what really matters here is it?
The student was shocked that you interpreted the piece of work as ‘hate speech’ and sincerely apologizes for having caused you offence.
Thank you again for taking the time to express your opinions, they are valid and I will discuss them further with the student.
Thank you again for showing an interest in this piece of work.
James D. Roberts
“jew media”. Jew media. Hell, son, you need to do some reading of some real information sources, instead of the pseudo-conservagtive crap you seem to have bought into. Try thinking instead of being a little parrot. Because the fact is that, given your final comment, and given the tone of much of your essay, you don’t really seem to have the greatest credibility in the world.
Jew media. Boy, did you drink the Kool Aid.
Thank you so much for an excellent, thoughtful, and extremely well reasoned response. It was a pleasure to read and I share many of your opinions.
One of the reasons that the student was compelled to write what she did was that she understands racism is a global issue, Korea especially, but she felt that the U.S has the best resources to successfully deal with racism. If America can’t solve it, what chance does mankind have.
Like it or not, the U.S influences what happens globally. The ruling allowing gays the right to get married will inevitably lead to similar laws being passed in the U.K and Australia as well as trough out Europe. It’s not fair, but that’s just how it is. Many foreign students aspire to study in the States, and understandably so, they do however react with dismay when such terrible events happen in the most developed country in the world.
When my student comes back I will get them to look at your response and to also consider how they feel towards America since the passing of the gay right to marriage law. America is as you say such a diverse and complex society.
Thanks again for taking the time to write such a brilliant response, communication like that makes me believe intelligent discourse is possible over the Internet.
You mean real propaganda. The real truth is what they try to keep hidden and can only be half guessed at by us out-of-the-loop unwashed masses in the form of conspiracy theories (some of which have proven to be true over time, like MKULTRA). I first began to realize MSM is propaganda or simply lies for the sake of sensationalism when I first noticed a mundane story on NPR that spun events a certain way, then found a local news source for the same story that presented more details, completely turning NPR’s take on its head. And the veils have just continued to come off my eyes from there.
Really good insight. Thanks.
Stanislaus Connections, the newspaper of the non-profit Modesto Peace/Life Center, Modesto, CA, would like permission to reprint and link on its website, the Letter from the Korean Student. We do not sell our papers.
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My student is very pleased to hear of your interest in their work. My student feels that the most important thing is that people have a chance to reflect on what is said in the letter, but most importantly that the letter does not distract us from remembering the innocent people that lost their lives in Charleston, this must remain our focus for change.
Please accept my student’s consent to use their letter.
James D. Roberts
Thank you so much, Jim, and many thanks to your student.
It’s a shame that your student has painted Americans with a broad brush. I’m sorry that she doesn’t seem to recognize that most Americans view Roof with the same sense of revulsion that most Muslims view the ISIS gangsters. Yes, there’s racism in America. There’s also racism in Europe, and Africa, and the Middle East, and, yes, even in Korea. I would point out, however, that we here, in America, recognize that type of thought as vulgar and unacceptable. I would also point out that if we were as bad a nation as her essay seems to suggest, Roof wouldn’t be facing any penalties at all–“Way-yall ah don’t unnerstan’ wut-all the prah-lem is. Ah mean they was juss a buncha useless n*****s, an’ n*****s ain’t ree-lee human, raht?”
Is there racism in America? Absolutely. But the fact that members of other races have more opportunities for success, the fact that events like the murders in Charleston meet with such a sense of horror and outrage, show that we’re better than we were in the past.
Is the widespread ownership of firearms a cause of fear and suspicion in America? I think it’s less of a problem than your student seems to believe. The fact that many Americans do not, in fact, own weapons of any sort suggests that this country isn’t a microcosm of the Wild West. American’s aren’t roaming around in large numbers gunning people down at random. Ours is, for the most part, a largely law-abiding nation.
To be honest, your student’s puzzlement over having given offense is a bit touching, but understandable for an 11th-grader. She hasn’t yet learned that there are “truths” she can express in a less confrontational and absolutist fashion. Yes, there is racism in America. Yes, there is private ownership of firearms in America. Yes, there is violent crime in America (although to conflate guns and racism is logically fallacious). Yes, there is police brutality in America. Yes, Americans aren’t as involved in other people’s lives as they should be (I include myself in that group). Yes, Americans are increasingly polarized politically. Yes, Americans are increasingly isolated socially. I refuse to make excuses for those failings.
But we’re not as bad as your student seems to imply. And we have been dealing with those failings.
I make no apologies for our condemnation of gangsters like the ISIS and terrorist groups. In many ways, the Charleston thug would fit in perfectly with those sub-humans. A useless little boy, full of hatred and contempt, making excuses and blaming others for his failures. It’s significant that so many of the gangsters’ recruits come from other nations (as well as America). Many of these recruits are full of holy zeal, and a firm conviction that the people they murder are less than human–are, in fact, “the enemy”. “You’re an infidel, so you deserve to die”. “The blacks are destroying America so they deserve to die”. In reality, most Americans–like people in every nation–are revolted by these attitudes. Most Americans do not believe as these people do. Most Americans embrace other people and other beliefs. And most Americans are quite capable of balancing their differences of opinion with the hard realities of the world.
You might have served your student better if you’d taught her to not be so judgmental about this country and its failings. In spite of our problems, people from around the world still come to America to stay. Quite a few decide each year to become citizens. Some of them are even Korean. We muss be doin’ somethin’ right.
As I alluded to in my first paragraph, America isn’t perfect. We have many problems–many of which we’ll never be rid of. I’m not going to try to make light of what’s wrong with our country. Neither will I say, “Well what about Every other country? Look at what they’re doing wrong!” But the reality is that every other nation does have problems of their own. They have their own evils, their own social failings. It ain’t all us that’s to blame. The reason, however is very simple. Nations are made up of people, fallible people. People with needs and wants. People who are emotional. And biased. And suspicious of outsiders. And racist. And, sometimes violent. And whose governments are full of the corrupt and power-hungry. Who use people’s biases and failings to seize and hold power. Whose citizens cooperate either through culture, or ignorance, or fear.
America isn’t the only country guilty of moral failures. In the end there’s enough blame to go around.
Hurrah! After all I got a weblog from where I can really take valuable
data regarding my study and knowledge.
Are you sure about that?
I just read your essay, “Death of the American Dream”. I guess I can see where your student got her ideas from. From her, it’s forgivable–as a visiting non-American, her ignorance is understandable. From you, however, it is not. As I pointed out in my comment above, America’s problems are caused by more than racism and gun ownership. I suspect, given your essay, that she might have adopted your sentiments as her own without giving any real thought to your position.
“America’s problems are caused by more than racism and gun ownership.” This is so obvious to be a truism, but they clearly represent two very important issues. I fear it to be unrealistic to expect my student, or anybody for that matter, to make a complete and thorough list of all America’s problems. For now at least would it not benefit the nation to address racism and gun control, or must more innocent people die before your social conscience is moved enough to do something?
I suspect that a greater danger to America than either racism or gun ownership is the rise of ignorance and religious extremism. America is becoming polarized, both socially and politically. In the Ken Burns documentary, The Civil War, writer Shelby Foote explained that one of the causes of that tragedy was that Americans forgot how to compromise. In other words, each side was not only convinced that they were more “right” than the other, each was convinced that the other side was the enemy–similar to the current social and political structure in America.
With regard to your final comment, I don’t have a conscience, social or otherwise, and I’d appreciate your not throwing manipulative remarks at me. They don’t work.
I would think that the failure to listen and compromise are probably the cause of most conflicts. America is an incredibly polarized society with most people having strong views on many of the major issues, gun control, gay marriage, immigration, arrest, rendition of suspected terrorists, legalization of recreational drugs etc. These are really divisive issues that can be difficult to find common ground in and compromise, but I agree that if progress is going to be made it will have to start with compromise.
Thanks for the great comments and sorry for my earlier tone.
Hi Jim, I really the peacemaking and non-defensive/non-offensive point of view you maintain, even in the midst of other people’s hostilities and insults. You allow clear-thinking and reason to triumph. Excellent! I wish this whole approach was normative with Internet discussions, but alas, it is very rare.
Thank you Peter, it’s very rare for people to take the time to say something nice. When I saw that there was a new comment I was dreading looking at it, but what a nice surprise. Again, thank you for your encouraging words.
You said you didn’t assign it on NyTimes.com. Did you ask the student if he minded you posting his/her work online?
Yes, I got the student’s approval, and keep them updated with any responses it gets.